Dirty Dishes and Hollywood Stars

Trip Start Jul 16, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Malaysia  , Johor,
Thursday, August 15, 2013

So having met Dan and Charlie in Cambodia we were introduced to the world of Helpx, a travellers dream, volunteer jobs around the globe where for a few hours work a day you can get free accommodation and sometimes food to conserve travelling funds and take some time out to stop for a while. What could be more perfect than a hotel on an island in Malaysia with a lovely beach, pool, nice rooms, 3 meals a day from the buffet and all we have to do is help out in the restaurant for a couple of hours at each dinner service.

You know that saying 'if something seems too good to be true it probably is' well that pretty much sums up our first experience of helpx.  Things didn’t really start too well, we turned up in Mersing where we had been told to go on our first day of work and turned up at the office to find it closed.  We phoned our boss Jasbeer who told us we were meant to have phoned as the boat had already left so we sat around Mersing for the next 4 hours waiting for another boat.

Eventually we made it, were shown to our lush room and turned up for dinner to discover that our boss had actually forgotten that we were turning up (hence the lack of boat) and they already had 4 volunteers in the resort.  2 French volunteers who had refused to work in another resort hotel as they didn’t like it and were equally miserable to be here and Tom and Fran, backpacking Brits who had lots of experience in hospitality.  Between us all we worked out a shift pattern so we all had the odd afternoon or evening off to save us all standing around the restaurant looking gormless. 

What surprised us the most about this project is that we expected to be interacting with the guests to help out the staff who didn’t speak great English.  No, what was expected was that we clear plates, wash glasses, dry dishes and keep the buffet stocked and if we so much as say good morning or ask the guests how they are we were told to shush or given a black look.  We subsequently found out that the helpxers that were there before we all arrived had been sacked for being too friendly with the guests??!!

Thankfully during our time at the hotel it was busy and pretty much full as there was a movie being shot on one of the surrounding island and all the cast and crew were staying at the hotel. It was pretty cool having Hollywood types hanging around and we loved chatting to the crew finding out what crazy jobs some of them did and listening to some crazy stories about the film world in LA.  The movie, Eden which is due out next year is definitely not a big budget blockbuster, it is about a football team whose plane crashes on an island leading to a lord of the flies and lost type storyline.  There are some pretty cool actors in it, we took great pleasure looking them all up on Imdb to work out who was who.  We met Diego Boneta from Rock of Ages, Eugene Simon from Game of Thrones, Nate Parker from The Secret Life of Bees, Ethen Peck from In Time and Jessica Lowndes who made her name in 90210, to name a few.  Our favourite actor was Matt Testro who is just starting out, he has just finished filming an Ozzie drama called The Nowhere Boys and this is his first movie at just 17, we will be watching out for you Matt!!  We snuck down to the set one night when they were shooting on our island and saw some of the movie being shot which was pretty cool.  Some of the actors were more revered amongst the crew than others, whenever anyone mentioned Ethen Peck, he was referred to as ‘Gregory Peck’s grandson’, hah hah.  The actors and crew were all so nice to us and made our stay a lot more bearable but sadly we arrived just as they were wrapping up the film so only had a week with everyone.  Call me star struck but I quite liked chatting with the actors and will definitely be waiting for them to hit the big time (not that some of them haven’t already) so I can claim I cleared their plates and got them glasses of ice! 

So after the French volunteers left we split our shifts with Fran and Tom and we would do either a breakfast or lunch shift each and then would share the dinner shift.  Breakfast was 8-12, lunch 12-4 and dinner 7-11 so we were all doing at least 8 hours a day.  When we raised this with the boss as being a bit of a high expectation especially when there were only going to be two of us we were suddenly told that we had to change rooms.  Call me cynical but the room we were moved to was a dark, musty dump full of creepy crawlies.  All this did is make us feel even less like working for 8 hours a day.  Eventually we decided that having had no time to really enjoy the resort or have any time off as we had expected we decided to look to see if there were any other options available for us to use our time in Malaysia more wisely.

One email and everything changed.

I emailed our friend Stef who we had met on Pom Pom, she had left half way through our stay and moved to another island to start a different project diving, planting coral and doing shark surveys whilst staying in a luxury resort.  I thought I would see if we could swing by and see her as she was just up the coast and amazingly it transpired that the volunteers that were with her had decided to leave so she was going to have to go as she couldn’t run the project on her own.  Amazingly her visa was due to expire at the same time as us and after a couple of phone call and emails it was agreed.  We were off to Lang Tengah to take part in another TRACC project for the final month of our visa, result.  Now we just need to get out of this job.

Something makes me think that Jasbeer has a few volunteers who don’t stick it out as he was not the slightest bit surprised when we told him that we had decided to move on.

It was fun whilst it lasted, but another 3 weeks of standing around and drying glasses was definitely not going to do my sanity any good.

Fingers crossed our next helpx is more successful, bring on the SCUBA tanks we are off to count some sharks.

As with all our projects lately there is always some issues that follow us right up until the end, after arriving on the island on the fast and lush speed boat we left on the cargo boat, we didn’t take this too personally as Fran and Tom were sent packing on it with us.  Our bus to KL was equally as eventful, the timetable claims it takes 4 hours but the reality was 7 hours of being bounced out of our seats.  The bus was actually pretty nice with tv’s in the back of every seat, sadly they stayed off for the duration.  Farewell Fran and Tom, thanks for sharing shifts with us, enjoy the rest of your travels!
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